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Heineman Blog Archive 12-10-02 to 1-10-03

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Recently our humble branch campus played host to Kenny Bindas, an historian of American popular music at Kent State and an all-around decent guy. While Kenny’s books have received warm academic reviews, more impressive is that magazines devoted to jazz and blues have given him enthusiastic raves. Even more impressive, Kenny is an academic who can actually practice what he teaches. (As I political historian of contemporary social movements it is probably best that I don’t have such talents.)

After Kenny gave a lively lecture on the commercial underpinnings of blues, rock, and country, he performed on stage with three of my colleagues. One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching at a small campus is that you get to associate with interesting people well outside your own narrow disciplines and specialties. So there up on the stage performing a mixture of blues and rock we had: a drummer/mathematician who publishes on “ring theory” (don’t ask—I still haven’t a clue); a guitarist-singer/physicist and NASA researcher on “solar winds”; and another guitarist/singer who doubles as a prolific poet. Kenny played the mandolin beautifully—he had self-taught himself on that instrument just months before.

I am no musician but I know what I like. (Recall the learned U.S. Supreme Court Justice who observed that while he did not know what pornography was he knew it when he saw it.) Kenny and my colleagues played well together—their first jam session. I also learned that my drummer/mathematician friend, being Canadian, had learned jazz-style, as opposed to the rock-style of drumming taught in most American high schools. Honestly I was not aware there were such national distinctions—although I wonder what that says about Canadians when they differentiate themselves from us by learning different American styles of music. You just cannot find any music more fundamentally American than jazz. Europe gave us Mozart but we did better: America made Coltrane.

The performance I had the honor of attending was stimulating, enjoyable, and often unpredictable. In truth, it reminds me of the History News Network. Reading Ralph Luker—whether on HNN or viewing his vivid postings on Conservative.net—is like enjoying great 1940s swing. Never a dull moment. And then there is fellow HNN blogger Tom Spencer who truly rocks. I have never agreed with anything Tom has written but I admire his energy, wide reading, and verve. Fundamentally I suspect that the key difference between us is more Arrowsmith meets Getz than Left opposed to Right.

I have enjoyed blogging for HNN for the past few months. The constant pressure of trying to produce thoughtful essays with historical context twice weekly has certainly sharpened my writing skills. On the other hand with my long-awaited academic break now at an end, and with three different course preparations to cover, as well as professional obligations, I can no longer devote the time necessary to produce essays that satisfy my standards. I thank my friendly readers and I expect that I will meet up with you all again sometime.


In the December 23 issue of The Weekly Standard David Brooks paints an interesting portrait of elite college students. “Making It: Love and Success at America’s Finest Universities” paints a picture of bright students who have been on the fast track since birth. Along the way, however, it seems few ever became acquainted with the world of work and have little idea why they are pursuing degrees in the liberal arts. They are an immensely likeable and self-assured group, Brooks informs readers, but what will these privileged youths do if the class cocoon in which they have been encased were to ever be ripped open by depression and war?

As it happens, Margaret Engel in, “Sigh, Another Rite of Passage Fades in the Sun,” which appeared in the July 28, 2002 edition of The Washington Post, had written about the same kinds of elite youths. According to Engel, America’s middle- and upper-middle-class college and high school youths, in contrast to previous generations, eschewed summer jobs and part-time work. Their days were filled up with “enrichment camps” while youths from Eastern Europe waited tables and cleaned toilets at seaside resorts and amusement parks. Native-born white American teens, of course, could still be found behind the counters at 7-11, working alongside youths whose parents may have been born in Mexico. Although “enrichment camp” may look great to Harvard admissions’ officers concerned about “diversity of experience,” an argument could be made that the kid working at 7-11 sees more real diversity on any given day than his or her more privileged counterpart.

This essay, however, is not about diversity, but about obligation—a growing obsession of mine I confess. How will the youths Brooks and Engel describe respond when America is threatened? Hoover Institution Fellow David Davenport, in the December 16 issue of The Washington Times, seemingly provides a partial answer to that question. Davenport’s focus was on why the present antiwar movement on college campuses has, to date, not become more of a student, rather than a faculty, phenomenon. Among his points is one meriting great attention: there is no military draft to arouse privileged students and give the listless liberal arts majors Brooks talks about a sense of direction.

One of the lessons of the campus wars of the 1960s—one not lost on President Richard Nixon—was that students were anti-draft, not necessarily antiwar. The institution of the lottery did much to defuse campus unrest. Today, of course, we have a voluntary army largely composed of working-class youths and college and Academy-trained officers. Military service for many upper-middle-class youths is not even seen as an option.

Interestingly, within days of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the majority of Harvard students, according to an opinion poll published in the campus newspaper, The Crimson (September 24), supported a military response but only 38 percent said that they were willing to fight.

Now one could put a negative spin on this and conclude that Harvard students and other elite youths are willing to remain home safe and in comfort, snug in their “enrichment camps,” allowing the kids who work at the 7-11 to fight and possibly die for them. But perhaps, just perhaps, we are selling America’s young elite short. As President George W. Bush said in reference to poor inner-city public schools and the many minority youths left behind, practicing “the soft bigotry of low expectations” was not the answer. The poor need encouragement, support, and high standards.

I believe the young elite of America too should not be condemned by the soft bigotry of low expectations. Some way, some how, a generation pampered by their Boomer parents and ridiculed by their peers at the 7-11 and the community college, can produce its own George Washingtons, Clara Bartons, Paul Fussells, and John McCains. This may be misguided faith, but this is, after all, the season of faith, as we stand poised to face the challenges to come.

Peace on the Earth.


Dear Readers:

I will be blogging up an extended essay soon but for now I have a request to make of you.

I am working on a book discussing contemporary debates over ideological diversity within liberal arts faculties—placing all this in a larger historical context of the evolution of American higher education. I welcome views from across the political spectrum on this topic as well as any thoughts you may have on students’ preparation for class work, public and legislative support for higher education, and what fears you have for your discipline or what you think your field does well. I am also particularly interested in hearing from current graduate liberal arts students and more recent PhD’s or grad school dropouts regarding their own experiences and what they enjoyed and disliked about their education. I can protect the identity of those who may not want to have their lamentations (if any) appear in print. You may contact me at: Ken

Thanks, Ken Heineman


Nineteen Sixty-Eight is often accorded special significance by political historians and commentators. By their lights, 1968 was the year the New Deal Democratic coalition came unglued and a partial conservative electoral realignment commenced. Although there is much merit to that point of view, there is a strong case to be made for reaching further back to the future—to 1948. Given Senate Majority Leader’ Trent Lott’s recent gaffes 1948 is certainly worth a closer look.

In 1948 President Harry Truman and the New Deal Democratic coalition appeared in peril. Faced with a changing electoral map in the North as southern black migrants made their way to the ballot boxes in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Detroit, civil rights increasingly shifted from being a sectional to a national issue. At the same time America’s commitment to contain by diplomatic and military means the spread of Soviet Communism, moved foreign policy to the center of domestic politics. In reaction to these developments, two ideological strains entered the body politic and eventually mutated the Republican and Democratic parties.

On the Left, former Agricultural Secretary and Vice President Henry Wallace, the scion of a wealthy Iowa publisher, criticized Truman’s policy of Communist containment. To Wallace, the United States needed to recognize the legitimacy of Soviet ambitions in Eastern Europe and, indeed, drew comparisons between Russian military domination in Eastern Europe and American economic influence in Latin America. It did not help Wallace’s candidacy for President on the Progressive Party ticket that he had surrounded himself in the 1930s with men such as Alger Hiss who were exposed as Soviet agents and that his campaign volunteers drew heavily from the ranks of the Communist Party USA. Even Harold Ickes, Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Interior and one of the most ardent New Deal Democrats, lamented that Wallace had no sense if one moved him more than several feet from a manure pile. It required little effort for Truman and organized labor to “red bait” Wallace.

Although Henry Wallace lost, his candidacy had enthralled a new generation of liberals, including a future history professor and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate named George McGovern. At the heart of the Wallace-McGovern critique of America’s Cold War foreign policy could be found a fear of, and revulsion against, the projection of U.S. military power abroad. Both men preferred negotiation with adversaries, which, to critics, looked like appeasement. Both Wallace and McGovern were critical of U.S. shortcomings, arguing that America could do better. To Cold War Democrats and conservative Republicans that stance looked anti-American. Both men also wanted to focus on domestic issues, leaving themselves open to charges of being naïve isolationists who left America open to sneak attack.

Of course, the interesting thing was that in 1948 Henry Wallace’s vision was marginalized and rejected by the Democratic Party. By 1972 much of Henry Wallace’s values were embraced by the insurgents who, led by McGovern, took over the Democratic Party. McGovern, of course, lost to Richard Nixon in a landslide, being the first Democratic presidential candidate since the era of the New Deal to loose Catholics, working-class whites, and southerners. Yet McGovern, as Wallace had, inspired a younger generation—especially a college antiwar protestor named Bill Clinton.

By 1992, Henry Wallace and his supporters—mainly secular Jews and white-collar public-sector professionals—were not the fringe of the Democratic Party, they were the Democratic Party. Indeed by 2002 it is safe to say that Cold War Democrats like Truman, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Washington senator Scoop Jackson were less a wing of the Wallace-McGovern-Clinton Democratic Party and more a windowless back-office operated by a lonely Dick Gephardt.

What makes 1948 so fascinating beyond the eventual triumph of Henry Wallace, was that the Democratic Party also confronted defections from the Right led by South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond. Unwilling to abide even a limited civil ranks plank put forward by Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention, Thurmond launched a presidential campaign on the States Rights or Dixiecrat ticket. Birmingham, Alabama, Police Commissioner Bull Connor joined Thurmond’s segregationist crusade while state representative George Wallace held fast for Truman. Thurmond, who mainly ran a sectional campaign, scored a few victories in the South but not enough to deny Truman his victory.

In 1968, of course, the Democratic Party, faced with a divisive war against Communism in Indochina and racial unrest, came apart precisely at the fault lines that had appeared twenty years earlier. George Wallace, who had come to see the political advantages of supporting segregation and calling for law and order, left the Democrats to mount an independent presidential campaign that cost nominee Humphrey dearly in the South. As historians such as Dan Carter have contended, Thurmond and George Wallace pointed the way to Republican Richard Nixon to mount a “Southern Strategy” to crack the New Deal coalition.

Some conservative revisionists have recently argued that Thurmond’s campaign was not just or really about racial segregation but about limiting federal bureaucratic power and fighting international Communism. In truth a convincing counterargument may be made that by embracing segregation and racial voting disfranchisement, Thurmond did more to promote Soviet propaganda overseas than Henry Wallace could have ever contemplated. So far as Thurmond being concerned about states’ rights, well at the heart of that cause in 1948 was a desire to avoid having the color-blind ideals of the U.S. Constitution apply to several southern states.

The question of the moment may be phrased thusly: are the heirs of Thurmond and George Wallace as deeply entrenched and as influential in the GOP as the grandchildren of Henry Wallace are in the Democratic Party? Does Trent Lott represent the GOP? Does he represent a wing of the GOP? Or is he preparing to find a windowless back office far down the hall from Gephardt? President George W. Bush’s recent comments on the politics and legacies of 1948 suggest that Lott had better pack up for a move. The congressional GOP would do well to give Tennessee senator Bill Frist the whole building—not just a wing.


Algis Valiunas wrote an excellent discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the December 16 issue of The Weekly Standard. Marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Stowe’s masterpiece, Valiunas reminds readers of what a religious and political phenomenon Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been in the 1850s. Its first printing in 1852 generated 300,000 in American sales and 2.5 million worldwide. Adjusting her sales for a U.S. population of fewer than 31 million—and taking into account that this book was just not going to sell well in the South—Stowe appears more formidable than Danielle Steele.

As Valiunas reminds us, Stowe was a Christian moralist who wanted readers to understand that the institution of slavery estranged the entire nation—not just the South—from a just God. And as enslaved blacks were debased, so were whites—Yankee and southerner. Her Uncle Tom is not a “Tom,” but a Christ-like figure that died for the sins of others. As for Stowe’s political impact, even if Abraham Lincoln half in jest called her “the little lady who made this big war,” it was only half in jest.

I recall in graduate school, when I was seeking ways to avoid taking history courses, I happened into an English seminar entitled, “American Political Literature from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Hunter S. Thompson.” The literature graduate students were oh so sophisticated, constantly reciting in reverential tones—regardless of the topic of discussion—the great Trinity: Fish! Proust! Pompous French Intellectual of the Moment! (In history our sophisticates simply chanted: Wallerstein!)

It came to pass that at the end of the seminar our very tolerant—and truly brilliant--instructor asked us who our favorite authors had been. I said without hesitation, Stowe. The looks of disdain, scorn, and disbelief I received were disconcerting. (I have since gotten used to this kind of reaction in academe.) I liked Stowe because, this being a politics in literature course, Stowe made no modernist or post-modernist, or post-modernist post-colonialist pretense at serving up anything other than evangelical Protestant zeal in its most righteous incarnation.

Truth be told I ended up becoming pretty scornful of Hunter Thompson. Oh sure, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 has its share of hoots, but when it came down to brass tacks Thompson’s cause was Thompson. If that sounds harsh just re-read the sections on the 1972 Democratic primary in Ohio. Here is the hard-nosed reporter who informs readers that he wanted to believe in George McGovern but couldn’t—and then, he came to believe! All power to the youth, the black, the hippie.

But then in Cleveland black party bosses Carl and Louis Stokes delivered the African-American vote to Cold Warrior Hubert Humphrey. Blacks were misled, Thompson implies. They did not understand the issues and failed to see McGovern as their deliverer from Richard Nixon. It’s patronizing, it’s insulting, and it’s just plain goofy. Interestingly, by the end of the book, Thompson makes it pretty clear that even McGovern is not good enough to vote for McGovern. Only Thompson remains. Such self-absorption stands in stark contrast to the spirit of Stowe.

In this season of Nativity and war, I recommend Uncle Tom’s Cabin as an ideal Christmas present. If interested in sending this book to a man in sore need of Christian instruction, you may mail it to: Hon. Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.


Cold and flu season is upon the household so a short blog follows…

Robert Hormats, the vice chair of Goldman, Sachs and a former member of the National Security Council, wrote an excellent—and disturbing—opinion piece in the December 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal. In “The Cost of Fighting” Hormats cautions that federal spending priorities and overall dollar amounts must be adjusted to current security needs lest we repeat the budgetary mistakes of the Johnson Administration. For a detailed and well written assessment of what happened in the 1960s and 1970s to the American economy following bad budgeting practices, see, Louis Galambos, “Paying Up: The Price of the Vietnam War,” in The Journal of Policy History 8 (1996): 166-179.

Peace to the sailors, soldiers, and civilians of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.